Friday, September 16, 2005

What’s the Word?

I’ve just been accused elsewhere of having made a bon mot ¹, which, while flattering, reminds me of something that happened to me some years ago, when I was taking night courses at the College.

This was in a marketing course. As part of a semester-long exercise, the class was broken into small groups to compete against each other in a computer-simulated marketing exercise. Our hypothetical product was a word-processing software package. Each team had to come up with a name; because the simulation software was a cranky DOS-based thing, said name could not be longer than eight letters. While other teams were kicking around names like WORDPRO and WRITENOW and WORDSTAR—some of which were the actual names of existing (if obscure) products—I casually suggested that BONMOT might be cute.

My teammates—who were all day students, and much younger than I—agreed, and so Team BonMot we were. It wasn’t until the end of the semester that I learned that not one of them had the faintest idea of what the phrase meant—and (after hearing him pronounce it to rhyme with “dot”) that nor did the instructor.

¹ On the Internet, this means that you’ve insulted someone very cruelly, but done so in an amusing or witty manner, in keeping with Oscar Wilde’s dictum that a gentleman is never unintentionally rude.

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